If you take a look at our portfolio of website projects, you might wonder how these websites were made to look incredibly attractive. Did we use some type of program or software that magically constructs these things using artificial intelligence?

The answer to that is, no. We make all our websites to engage users and offer a completely customized experience. Unlike machines, we use our human sense of design to produce something for the human experience.

Of course, we still need to know the computer language so that we can instruct the computer to turn our imagination into reality. One of the most important languages for web design is CSS, and in this article, we will talk about it in great detail.

The CSS codes that can create so many designs with text commands.

Why do you need to know about CSS?

You could be the business owner or the manager who would rather leave the technical coding labor to the developers. However, as a business leader, it is important to know the fundamentals of web design in order to manage, control, and supervise one of the most important projects in your business — website development.

If you are hiring a web design agency such as Island Media Management, some knowledge in CSS can be beneficial so that you are able to fully master the final product that we offer. Should you choose to make any changes to your final website, you’ll be more capable of effectively communicating with web developers, whether they are in your organization, ours, or a third party provider.

What is CSS and how is it used in web design?

CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets. A style sheet (alternatively spelled as ‘stylesheet’) is a document that contains lines of instructions, or CSS rules, that tell the browser how website elements should be stylized so that they look more beautiful and eye-catching.

The stylesheet typically accompanies an HTML document and instructs the browser how to style and render the HTML markup. The HTML document contains all the content (words and images) that go into the live website.

A collection of CSS links that help HTML communicate with CSS.

Do you remember how websites used to look in the 80s and early 90s? Almost all websites were written in the Times New Roman typeface, mostly in black font color, had little to no images, and generally looked boring compared to today’s websites.

Well, without CSS or any styling instructions, browsers will render the HTML document like an ancient website.

If you log into your business website’s backend or file directory in your hosting server, you can find the CSS source code that translates the designer’s vision from behind the scenes. Opening the file to view, allows you to see a series of CSS rules, one that may look like this:

.nav-bar-links {
         color: #2B7DE9;
         font-size: 1px;
}

In some files, the same rule could be written like this:

.nav-bar-links {color: #2B7DE9; font-size: 1px;}

There are three parts in a CSS rule — the selector, one or more properties, and the value associated with each property. Notice that all properties are written in English, so understanding what each rule does should not be difficult. 

The selector refers to the exact element(s) that will be affected by the CSS rule. The selector name can be written in English or in any language that the developer chooses. The value is simply the variable that makes all the changes (e.g. a 3px font size is 3 times larger than a 1px font size).

Note: If you are working with a developer, make sure that the developer uses selector names that make sense intuitively. This makes it easier for the code to be maintained, as it is independent of who developed the code in the first place.

What is ‘inline styling’ and ‘internal styling’?

In a folder that contains all the necessary files to render your website properly in a browser, you can find at least one HTML file and at least one CSS file. This CSS file is said to be the external stylesheet of the HTML file.

However, before CSS was invented, developers would write ‘CSS rules’ inside the HTML file, either by inline styling or internal styling, or both

Inline styling looks something like this:

<a href=“www…” class=“nav-bar-links” style=“color: #2B7DE9; font-size: 1px”> Contact Us </a>

This styling rule will achieve the same result as the previous example codes above. So if styling a website is achievable by coding just one document, why do we need an external CSS document?

Coding CSS in an external document gives us two advantages: 1) easy maintenance, and 2) faster development. Let’s say you decided to rebrand your business and want to change the brand text colors from this blue to this green color. 

If the previous developer had used inline styling, which is now a terrible web design practice, your current developer would have to remove every single line of code that contains “color: #2B7DE9”.

You also should question developers who use internal styling such as shown below in this example HTML document:

<html>
<head>
             <style>
                        .nav-bar-links {color: #2B7DE9; font-size: 1px;}
           </style>
</head>

<body>
          <a href=“www...” class=“nav-bar-links”> Contact Us </a>
</body>
</html>

While this is also not a recommended web design practice, it is a better alternative to inline styling. Your developer may have something in mind when he or she is writing some CSS rules in the HTML document. Inquire about it so that you can understand what to expect.

Logo for Bootstrap 4

What is a CSS library, and are they good for web design?

Developers know that after many years of developing websites, there are just certain lines of code that are common across all projects. For example, a nice-looking button may have rounded corners and some may even have a shadow effect.

One day, a group of developers realized this, and coded a template for this nice-looking button, so that thousands of other developers no longer need to repeat the same exact code, speeding up development time. The open-source stylesheet is published, and developers would download one or more CSS files that someone else has already created.

This particular set of CSS files is called a library. There are common CSS libraries that are in use in 2021, examples of which include Bootstrap 4 and Tailwind CSS, both of which are free to use or download.

All the developer needs to do is to include what’s called a class name within the HTML document, that matches with the selector of the foreign CSS file. In essence, the developer calls the styling rules without having to rewrite the code all over again.

Using libraries makes a lot of sense from a website development perspective, and is encouraged. At Island Media Management, we often use a few code snippets from available libraries to deliver your website quickly, and with high quality.

The only caveat of using a CSS library is that your developer must understand it well to appreciate its power. Developers need to know about CSS dependencies and avoid calling a style by accident by unknowingly using the same class name as the library’s selector.

Note: A CSS library doesn’t have to be written by someone outside of your company. If you’ve hired a good developer, he or she will have made a CSS library specific to your website.

In summary...

CSS is a styling language that is understood by the browser, and without which, the browser will not render the website for the best user experience. CSS codes are always written in at least one external style sheet (in a .css file) that allows for easy maintenance of the website design.

Inline styling is not recommended as it is difficult to maintain, although some developers will include an internal styling for specific reasons. A CSS library is an external CSS file that has been written for the purpose of providing a template, to speed up website development. Common CSS libraries are Bootstrap 4 and Tailwind, although your developer can also create a unique CSS library for the exclusive use of the company website.

Let’s design something amazing

At Island Media Management, our Design and Developer teams constantly strive for excellence as website development technologies constantly push the boundaries of what’s possible. Your website should catch the attention that your business deserves. 

Which of these designs do you like the most? Send us an email and let us know!

About the author

Gio

Gio

Gio is a creative writer with a technical background in food science. His strong research skills and a keen sense of communication style blend well to craft compelling content. His personal blog covers topics about lifestyle, food, and finance. 

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